Rarescale – Premiere Series

Sonata, ‘The Cathedral’
Pale Views
Steeples in My Soul
Les Yeux Clos II
The Only Lonely One?
A Fractured Melody

Carla Rees (alto flute)
Kerry Yong (piano)
Sarah Thurlow (bass clarinet)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 29 October, 2004
Venue: St Cyprian's, Glentworth Street, London

Formed in 2003, Rarescale is an ensemble centred on alto flautist Carla Rees and pianist Kerry Yong. The present recital focused on music for these players both individually and together, augmented in the first item by Sarah Thurlow on bass clarinet. That item being The Cathedral (2003) – a sonata by Tom Ingoldsby, inspired by a Rodin sculpture and condensing the fast-slow-fast format into a fluid single movement whose timbral finesse and rhythmic vitality echo other pieces by this distinctive and increasingly significant composer.

Otherwise, the programme was well planned to contrast the two main instruments. A novel by Kazuo Ishiguro lies behind the wistful flights of fancy in Pale Views (2003) by Basil Athanasiadis, while David Bennett Thomas explores a more robust facet of memory in his Emily Dickinson-inspired Steeples of My Soul (2004). In between came the intricate pianistic inscrutability of Esperance (1986) by Chris Dench – a mainstay of 1980s’ “New Complexity”, a composer little heard here since relocating to Australia at the close of that decade. Ekagra (1958) is a vivid examination of inherent facets of the alto flute – with an equally exacting piano part – by Kazuo Fukushima. This Japanese exact contemporary of Takemitsu remains little heard in Europe – and, on the basis of this piece, undeservedly so.

After the interval, another stern test of stamina in Giovanni Scapecchi’s Riflessi (2003) – its range of sonorities evoking Varèse (appropriate that it should be published by Edizioni Hyperprism!), and a piece which suggests this 27-year-old Italian to be among his country’s most interesting younger composers. At 11 minutes, Micro-Images (2004) by Daniel Kessner was the longest work this evening – its several movements exploring micro-intervals with dexterity both expressive and entertaining. After the ethereal sonorities of Les Yeux Clos II (1989), one of Takemitsu’s most ingratiating piano studies, Karen Gourlay offered thought-provoking insights into the alto flute’s persona in The Only Lonely One? (2003). Both instruments came together for the final item: A Fractured Melody (2004) by Marc Yeats, in which the alto flute’s melodic flow is constantly undercut by chordal gestures from the piano – the opposition generating an increasingly confrontational discourse with no clear winner.

A small but enthusiastic audience was clearly (and rightly!) captivated by the technical and expressive accomplishment of Rees over the course of her demanding but rewarding showcase, and she was given unstinting support by Yong – who made the most of his opportunities to shine. On the basis of tonight’s showing, Rarescale is a venture with much to offer composers and listeners alike.

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